Provided you do so respectfully, visiting a Hindu temple is one of the biggest highlights of traveling to India. Rather than treating it as a tourist destination, though, you should obviously be respectful of the religious and cultural significance of a Hindu temple.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you could need to know about visiting a Hindu temple in India. We’ll also discuss some topics on Indian culture that are worth knowing before you travel.
In short, a Hindu temple is the religious building of the Hindu religion. Think of it the same as what churches are to Christians and temples are to Jewish people. Hindu temples should ideally be built near water, which is where the gods play.
Unsurprisingly, Hindu temples have had a big influence on Hindu culture. As is true of most religions, the temples contain sculptures and paintings of gods and religious scenes. In Sanskrit, the word for these religious images is murtis.
Although there are lots of different styles of Hindu temple, they all follow the same design principles. It’s not necessary to dive into these here, other than to highlight that the buildings are typically square with circular spires. Once you’ve seen a few images, it should be pretty easy to spot a Hindu temple.
The main function of a Hindu temple is obviously as a site of religious worship. But temples also house religious libraries and schools, and act as social hubs. Although this isn’t unique to Hinduism, the social functions of temples have endured much longer than in other religions thanks to the community-driven nature on Indian culture.
If you plan to visit a Hindu temple when you travel to India USA, it’s important to understand how to respect the religious culture. After all, temples are places of worship, and if you plan to visit one as a tourist, you must ensure you’re treating the place properly.
Here are 3 things to know about Hindu temples and Indian culture before visiting one.
The most important part of temple etiquette is making sure you’re properly dressed. For everyone, this means no shorts and covering your shoulders. You must also remove your shoes before entering the temple, again as a sign of respect.
As you enter the temple, you should ring the bell you’ll find near the door. This is to alert the gods that you’re visiting their home – just as you’d ring someone’s doorbell. Then, you should bow and touch your head to the floor, which is a sign of humility and respect.
It’s not expected of tourists, but you can bring a gift if you want. Stick to something simple like a flower or piece of fruit.
In the temple’s main room, you’ll find murtis of the particular deities worshipped in that building. These are worshipped using puja, which is the Sanskrit word for religious rituals. During a puja, a priest will offer the deities flowers and incense.
Hindu worship involves all 5 senses, so be prepared for quite a show. You should remain as respectful as possible, and if you just want to observe, make sure you stay out of the way. That said, the puja might be passed your way, so just pass it on if it is.
A lot of Hindu ceremonies aren’t congregational in the same way as, say, Christianity. Instead, you watch the priest give the deities offerings, but there won’t necessarily be any speeches or sermons.
However, in some temples and religious communities, chanting and mantras are a vital part of worship. It typically involves chanting the names of the gods you plan to worship while counting beads. This is done as a form of mental purification.
You might also hear mantras chanted to music, which is called kirtan. It’s done in a call and response format, so you might need to know some Sanskrit for this! If you’ve got a tour guide, they’ll likely inform you of what to say. But if you’re on your own, join in as much as possible, even if you don’t know the words!
Although there are temples anywhere you find groups of Hindus, the oldest and most authentic are obviously in India. One option for finding them is to search, “temple near me Hindu” when in India. But to get you started, here are 3 of the most famous in the country:
The best time to travel to India USA is between December and February. This is when the temperature is as moderate as it gets. But it’s also the peak season, meaning prices of flights and accommodation are higher.
The temperature starts to increase in March and gets very hot. You’ll find fewer tourists and large promotions as a result. But be prepared to deal with some high temperatures if you travel during this period. It can reach the mid-80s in the coldest areas!
Monsoon season starts in June and runs until September. The risk of floods is obviously highest during this period, but it stays pretty hot once the rain clears. The bottom line is that, provided you don’t mind paying a bit extra, the best time to visit is over the cool/dry season.
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